Fair play - which was only introduced as a tiebreaker at this year's World Cup - was then used to split the pair, with Japan's four yellow cards beating Senegal's six. The manager changed six players from the team that started both previous games against Colombia and Senegal - including all front four attackers - and the decision nearly backfired spectacularly. That would have put them out, but Japan coach Akira Nishino - who made six changes to his lineup - was indebted to Yerry Mina's goal in Colombia's win over Senegal.
With 35 Premier League players from the 2017/18 campaign playing for either England or Belgium during the World Cup there will be plenty of familiar faces on show. I'm not too happy about this but I forced my players to do what I said.
Senegal's six yellow cards to Japan's four ultimately cost the African side, which exits Russian Federation in disappointing circumstances.
The game petered out in the dying minutes in farcical circumstances with both Japan and Poland so happy with the result that they were content to let the Japanese play keep-ball in their own half. 'In the end we went through so it proved the right decision'. We did not go through with victory, but we just relied on the other match and I feel that it was slightly regrettable but I suppose at that point I didn't have any other plans.
Coming into this afternoon's games sitting atop Group H, anything other than a defeat to Poland would have guaranteed Japan their place in the next round.
Japan and Senegal share the group lead with four points and the same number of goals scored and conceded. Scampering across his goal before diving, Kawashima clawed the ball to safety just before it had crossed the line.
With Japan and Senegal having drawn 2-2, the sides were split in a World Cup first by FIFA's new tie-breaking "fair play" regulation, which compared the sides' disciplinary records across their three group matches.
Nawalka said: 'After our first two matches we somehow had to deal with a lot of justified criticism and that is why it was clear the emotional level of this game was really high.
Japan will go on to face the victor of the Belgium v England match in the Round of 16.